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Suddenly the EU's Break-Up Has Moved from A Long Shot to A Probability
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Although British voters have for decades wanted out of the European Union, that possibility has hitherto been expertly forestalled by a less-than-democratic left-right alliance of London-based elites.

Now suddenly all bets are off. In local council elections yesterday, England’s long-suffering grass-roots voters finally rose up. They snubbed both main parties, the Conservatives and Labor, to support the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), a relatively new and hitherto marginalized party whose main agenda is to get the U.K. out of the European Union.

Yesterday’s vote, a personal triumph for UKIP leader Nigel Farage, seems likely to trigger a chain-reaction in which it becomes impossible for the London elites any longer to hold out Canute-like against the democratic will.

As things stand, Prime Minister David Cameron has already – to his own evident distaste – succumbed to pressure to hold an in-out referendum if his party wins a majority in next year’s general election. Yesterday’s election results strengthen the hand of such anti-EU Conservative politicians as Douglas Carswell, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Peter Bone, who want their party to cut a deal with UKIP that would further undermine the London elites’ pro-EU program.

So far the Labor hierarchy has continued to oppose a referendum but that may be changing. A year ago a pressure group called Labor for a Referendum was set up by Labor MPs who have been arguing that a promise of a referendum offers Labor the best hope of winning the next election. The results of yesterday’s elections will do nothing to muffle the group’s message. Meanwhile Labor leader Ed Miliband has nowhere to turn. If he does not belatedly support a referendum, he risks a devastating rebellion among party activists. Many Labor members of Parliament are in marginal constituencies and risk losing their seats if their party cannot match Cameron’s referendum pledge. Yesterday’s elections powerfully exacerbated their fears because traditional Labor supporters evidently deserted the party in droves for UKIP.

Not the least of Miliband’s embarrassment is that in putting obstacles in the way of an in-out referendum, he finds himself in the same bed with denizens of the despised London financial district. Just last month Michael Sherwood, a London-based vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs, made headlines by voicing strong opposition to the UK’s leaving the EU. It need hardly be added that his intervention may have proved counterproductive in that Goldman Sachs’s reputation in recent years has taken as much of a shellacking in Britain as in the United States.


It probably does not help that various other transnational corporations have also been trying to keep the UK in the EU. Prominent among them is Ford. In January, Stephen Odell, chief executive of Cologne-based Ford of Europe, threatened that the company could “reassess” its British operations if the UK left the EU. Even more unsubtly, Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Goshn let it be known that the Nissan might reassess its big plant in Sunderland in the North of England. Other prominent business leaders who have publicly try to sway British feelings against a pull-out include Jan du Plessis, South African-born chairman of Rio Tinto, Sir Michael Rake of the BT telecommunications giant, and Sir Martin Sorrell of the advertising and public relations company, WPP.

Why is the EU so unpopular? One major issue is that under EU regulation constantly lampooned in the British press as stupid and intrusive. Voters are also incensed about disproportionately large inflows of immigrants from other EU nations.

(Republished from Forbes by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Economics • Tags: Eurozone 
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